The Bitter Pill
Healing Salve of Forgiveness
Hello you Gandhi-like Group and Giving Forgivers!!
What Kind of a forgiver are you?
Let’s talk about Forgiveness. Why is it so hard to do?
Forgiveness is a misunderstood notion. When I discuss forgiveness with my clients, there is usually a load of resistance and a need to express to me how I must not REALLY understand what happened or I would be recommending they beat the crap out of the offender, NOT forgive them!
Trust me, forgiveness is for “us” not necessarily for “them”.
The most common misconception about forgiveness is that two people are required for it to work. This is not true!
Forgiving is all about you. Holding anger or releasing it occurs in your mind. How do you want to feel? What do you want taking up space in your brain/body? It’s your choice. Forgiveness is not condoning the actions of the other party. It is not rolling over and giving up. It is not giving in or losing anything. Forgiveness is the healthy thing to do to free YOU from resentment prison. It may not be easy but worth the effort.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
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Forgiveness will change your life experience…
People hurt us in a zillion ways big and small. Whether you are dealing with being betrayed by your spouse or cut off in traffic, you must decide to ruminate or forgive. I see forgiving as letting go of something toxic or as one of my clients would instruct, “Bless and release”.
A very important aspect of being able to forgive is having your feelings understood and witnessed by an empathic other.
I teach my clients a burning ritual to release resentment. Think of an unresolved injury in your life and then write an unedited letter to the offending party (living or dead), pouring out how the experience made you feel and the ramifications it had in other areas of your life. You are creating a comprehensive narrative, where the facts and the feelings co exist, to share with a safe and trusted confidant. The witness should not comment or react (no gasping please). Their job is to be an active and sympathetic listener only. Then go to a safe place and burn the letter releasing it back into the universal energy and out of your body. Affirm I AM FREE …and feel it.
Forgiveness research gives us some scientifically based information about why forgiving is good for you-mind, body and spirit. Elizabeth Scott M.S (from About.com) writes about a study done by Behavioral Medicine that found forgiveness to be associated with lower heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress relief.
A different study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that forgiveness not only restores positive thoughts, feelings and behaviors towards the offending party but the benefits of forgiveness spill over to positive behavior towards others outside of that relationship. It is also associated with more volunteerism, donating to charity and other altruistic behaviors. The converse is true for non-forgiveness. So it is clear that holding onto resentment has far-reaching negative ramifications for life quality.
So now that we have established the why, let’s get down to the how. After your letter writing/burning exercise consider the following condensed version of The 8 Steps of How to Let Go and Forgive courtesy of Leo Babauta from the amazing website www.zenhabits.com.
Commit to letting go
You aren’t going to do it in a second or maybe not even in a day. It can take time to get over something. So commit to changing, because you recognize that the pain is hurting you.
Think about the pros and cons
What problems does this pain cause you? Does it cause you unhappiness? Think of the benefits of forgiveness — how it will make you happier, free you from the past and the pain, improve things with your relationships and life in general.
Realize you have a choice
You cannot control the actions of others, and shouldn’t try. But you can control not only your actions, but also your thoughts. You can stop reliving the hurt, and can choose to move on. You have this power.
Try this: Put yourself in that person’s shoes. Try to understand why the person did what he did. Start from the assumption that the person isn’t a bad person, but just did something wrong.
Understand Your Responsibility
Try to figure out how you could have been partially responsible for what happened. What could you have done to prevent it, and how can you prevent it from happening next time? This isn’t to say you’re taking all the blame, or taking responsibility away from the other person, but to realize that we are not victims but participants in life.
Focus on the present
Now that you’ve reflected on the past, realize that the past is over. It isn’t happening anymore, except in your mind. And that causes problems — unhappiness and stress. Instead, bring your focus back to the present moment. What joy can you find in what is happening right now?
Allow peace to enter your life
As you focus on the present, try focusing on your breathing. Imagine each breath going out is the pain and the past, being released from your body and mind. And imagine each breath coming in is peace, entering you and filling you up. Release the pain and the past. Let peace enter your life. And go forward, thinking no longer of the past, but of peace and the present.
Finally, forgive the person and realize that in forgiveness, you are allowing yourself to be happy and move on.
Being healthy is not always easy but always worth the effort…
I will close with an Oscar Wild quote that made me laugh because it is so true.
“Always forgive your enemies –nothing annoys them as much.”
You know I am here to help.
Go make Gandhi proud and please share your winning formula for forgiving in the comments below.
Love Love Love,